Equinox in Canada

Well, I finally made it back to see my family for the first time in over 2.5 years (thanks to the pandemic). And I made in time for the beautiful autumn colours, the full moon and the equinox. I’m feeling truly blessed, and it’s an enormous reminder not to take the little things in life for granted. Right now, being in the forest and hills of my home where I grew up, I take comfort in the calls of the geese migrating south, the colours of the maples in their fiery glory, the laughter of family and the sense of being “home”. Blessings of the equinox to you all!

Living Lagom 3

Living Lagom 3

It’s been a while since I’ve written about my adventures with lagom. I had almost given up last year (as you might have seen from my last post where I was lamenting the greed and selfishness that was expressing itself in the British public at the start of lockdown) however I have quietly carried on, making small changes in my own life and finding that balance point not only spiritually, but on a very physical level as well.

Perhaps the biggest change for me has happened with my wardrobe. Some might think that this is a very superficial change, but actually, for me clothing has always expressed who I am. Like my writing, like my art, what I wear is a part of me, and upon reflection, a very huge part as it is what I present to the public every day. It is an intrinsic part of every human’s experience: what will they adorn/clothe themselves with today? Clothing can reflect so many things, from your own personality to your religion, culture, your musical or sporting preference and (sigh) financial status. It is a part of you, who you are and what you choose to share with the world.

Grad year, high school

My own clothing style started in high school, where I enjoyed the basics. Jeans, t-shirt or a plain coloured collared shirt (usually black) and dark knitted jumpers/sweaters in the winter. Black boots. Very monochrome, I enjoyed the darker colours from navy blue to grey and black.

Me in Jesus Christ Superstar

In college I discovered the bohemian style, and colour flared out from every angle of my wardrobe. I loved going to hippie and head shops, where the fabric and patterns from Guatemala reflected the hope and positivity in my heart (as well as some of the less than legal experiences I was having at the time, but which I have happily left to those days). I was a wild child, a flower child, a free spirit roaming across the country to land 3,000 miles away on the west coast.

A day off from the barn in Vancouver, BC

Eventually, that group of friends and culture dissipated, and I found my clothing habits changing again, to simpler and practical items. I was, after all, now working at an equestrian centre, managing the stablehands, and so I needed clothing that kept me warm in the winter and cool in the summer. It was back to jeans and t-shirts, plain colours and easy to wash and wear clothing.

Me (in the hat) and my sister

When I moved to the UK, that fashion sense followed me for a while, with a bit of a sporty/edgy kick as cargo pants were the rage and the skater fashion style emerged into the wider general public. Then my life was turned upside down, and I found myself working at a new age shop in Wales, where I was living at the time. The happiness of my flower power days tempted me back, in the search for better times and reliving memories that helped me get through the day. This sort of fashion stayed with me for many years, until I realised that as long as I was searching for happiness in the past, I would never find it in the present. Those days were over, and I needed to reflect my newfound independence from my previous self, while still acknowledging and enjoying the memories, as well as incorporating the lessons that I had learned along the way.

And so, once again, it was back to basics. And this is where lagom fits in. My core clothing style is unfussy, plain basics that allows me to be comfortable. I don’t need the flashy clothing to tell people who I am: if they are interested, they will ask. I don’t have to shout it from the rooftops.

And so I’ve come full circle, back to when I first discovered a style that I liked over 35 year ago back in high school. Plain colours, (though not as much black as back then), jeans, simple jewellery and footwear. Casual yet put-together.

And by finding what my core style is, I’ve been able to express that better through lagom. It’s not about buying more items that fit with my style, but about how to best express that style in balance. Creating a capsule wardrobe of around twenty items and then adding to that dependent upon the season has really helped.

In order to create capsule wardrobe, you need to have the basics of your own personal style. These are things that you know you will always reach for, which for me is jeans and a t-shirt or a collared shirt, sometimes with leggings. Take these items out of your wardrobe and put them aside. These are the keepers, the basics that you can use all year round.

My current closet for autumn, and yes, there is a picture of David Bowie as the Goblin King in there. Keep the magic alive.

Items that you don’t love, that don’t fit, that you haven’t worn since the last season it suited, give it away to charity. Then, with a much roomier closet now that you have gotten rid of extraneous wardrobe that no longer suits you, put your core items back in. Then consider the season that you are in. Autumn is here in the UK, and so I’ve pulled out my jumpers and long-sleeved tees. These seasonal items I keep in storage in a blanket box in the spare room, so that my closet isn’t overwhelmed with clothing I don’t wear because it is not in season. The shorts and summer shirts go into storage, and a few autumnal pieces come out. I do the same with winter and spring too: put away the items you love and know you will wear again next season, and get out what is appropriate. By doing so, you won’t have to shop for new clothes, but instead you are shopping your own wardrobe!

This is good for you, your bank balance and for the environment. Too often we can look at a closet or wardrobe that is full of clothing that is out of season, and the items that are relevant can get lost in the jumble. When I bring out my heavier winter clothing out of storage, it’s like falling in love all over again. Those cozy jumpers in the greys and darker colours just remind me of winter. In the spring, I get out my lighter shirts and bring colour back. In the summer, it’s all about practical wear, what I can wear while trekking about on the heathland and the coast, in practical gear that still reflects my own sense of style. And going into autumn – well, it’s my favourite season, so the basics are added to with those beautiful fall colours.

The blanket box where I keep my out of season clothing

This is a lagom way of dealing with your own wardrobe. You don’t have to go all Marie Kondo and minimalist to the extreme. What you are doing is finding the balance, where you can rotate your wardrobe and not spend a lot of money each season buying new clothing. As well, when you have a wardrobe that works together, you will find that when you are shopping for a new item, whether that is brand new or in a second-hand shop, you will take the time to really consider whether it works with the items you have. It’s all about using what you have, and not having too little, or too much.

And therein lies the lagom. You are not depriving yourself of clothing and creating a minimalist wardrobe of less than twenty items. You are finding your own style, rotating it according to the season, and falling in love once again with items that you haven’t seen for a year when you bring them out of storage. It’s a perfect system for me, where the anticipation of seeing the next season’s much-loved items coming out of storage brings me joy.

Storing your items is simple – like I said, I have a blanket box where I can keep the out of season items (coats included). If you have a spare room with a closet, you can keep items there. But don’t let it get away from you, remember the lagom rule: not too much, not too little, but just right. Don’t have a nice, uncluttered closet in your bedroom, and then an overflowing one in the guest room or in storage boxes under the stairs. Be specific, be discerning, and remember that each item of clothing that you re-wear, you are saving the planet just a little and also keeping your hard-earned cash in your own pocket.

If you would like to start looking at how to de-clutter, become more environmentally conscious and create a capsule wardrobe, there is a very good YouTuber in Denmark who creates wonderful videos to help you find your own style and system. Though the clothing brands she recommends every now and then are ethical brands, they are also priced sky-high, and so if you do need new items you can look for less expensive, good quality clothing brands such as H&M, who have their own brand of clothing made from recycled fibres and natural materials. Their Tencel fabric items are so soft and lovely, and I can highly recommend their denim shirts. As well, there are many H&M stores where you can drop off your old clothing, which they will recycle and give you vouchers off for your next purchase with them. If you would like some cash for your old clothes, this may be a hassle-free way to do it. And, of course, there are always charity shops!

Lagom is a way of life, of finding out where that balance point is for YOU. And that point changes with each person. Like milk in a cup of coffee, we each have our preference. But ask most Swedes, and they will usually say “lagom is best”.

Book review: Wicca Herbal Magic by Lisa Chamberlain

Wicca Herbal Magic: A Beginner’s Guide to Herbal Spellcraft is another fine installment from Lisa Chamberlain in her series of books on Wicca. This one, as several others, is published by Sterling in their “Mystic Library”, a series of lovely introductory hardcover pocket books. I’ve reviewed two others in this series, and this latest one does not disappoint. I adore hardcover books, and the little pocket sizes are excellent for those just starting on the path. They provide enough content to give a basic grounding in the subject, as well as a beautiful layout that really pleases the eye and captures and reflects the written contents of the book. I love these little books!

Lisa Chamberlain’s writing is excellent, as ever.* I liked the way that this book was laid out in three sections. The first is “The Ancient Art of Herbalism”, which contains a kind of short history of herbalism and its shamanic practices, as well as a look at the ancient system of correspondences and the aspects of Hermetics that relate to working with plants (and indeed many magical systems).

The second part of the book, the practical section, looks at thirteen herbs that can be used magically (as well as some of the better-known physical benefits that these provide). Most of these herbs many people already have in their cupboards or in their gardens, such as basil, bay laurel, cinnamon, dandelion, nutmeg, rosemary, sage and thyme. It shows us how we can work with herbs that have a long history in magical works, and without breaking the bank. On top of this, we have some wonderful tips on purchasing herbs, creating a magical garden, foraging, drying and storing herbs and how to use them magically (such as charging herbs before putting them to work).

Part three is an herbal grimoire, with recipes for magical teas which anyone can work with, magical baths, herb and candle spells, smudging, making oils and more. There are also rituals in this section such as blessings. At the end of this work, there is a brief overview of how to work with herbs in relation to astrology, which if you work with natal charts, the zodiac or planetary energy is perfect.

There are also handy tables of correspondences for quick reference at the end of the book.

All in all, this is a great little book to get you started working with our herbal allies. At just over 100 pages, it is not overwhelming and is easy to take in. Lisa’s writing style is informal but impeccable, and makes you want to learn more, try out the recipes and spells and get more involved with the work as a whole. It’s a great little gift for anyone interested in magical herbalism. I’ve been working with herbs for many years now, and I learned some new things in this book – with witchcraft, magic and herbalism, you never stop learning!

*For those in the Pagan community who still (wrongly) profess that Lisa Chamberlain is not a real person, (and the books are written by ghostwriters) it’s time to stop. She is real, she is lovely and I’ve spoken to her. It’s time this misinformation ends. She is a prolific writer, and good on her!

And now for some R&R…

The contract has been signed for the next book, the manuscript has been submitted this morning, this video was made this afternoon from footage I’ve been shooting all month, and now I’m going to take a little rest! See you all in a couple of weeks 🙂

Witches and Brooms – Sex Magic/Sexual Fantasy Or Something Far Greater?

Witches and Brooms – Sex Magic/Sexual Fantasy Or Something Far Greater?

Over the years I’ve heard quite a few people equate the riding of the broom by a witch to a sexual experience. Often these folks state that the witch used a hallucinogenic ointment which was rubbed onto the broom, and then inserted in a sexual manner which made her think she was “flying”. I can tell you, there are a lot easier ways to get high.

This theory comes from a few confessions extracted during the dreadful times of the witch hunts across Europe. What is often forgotten or purposefully left out is the fact that these so-called confessions were extracted under torture. Europe and Scotland had absolutely awful methods of torturing so-called witches to extract information from them, usually with questions led by the examiner to produce a consistent result among the captives. In England, torture was illegal, however, they still kept their victims awake and used sleep deprivation to get what they wanted, as well as having the person kept in one position for hours at a time without being able to move. That’s torture too.

If we are to believe that what was said under torture is factually correct, then we must also believe what else was said alongside this confession. We must believe that these people had sexual congress with goats, or the Devil himself. We must believe that these people suckled their familiars (animal helpers) with their own blood. We must believe a host of other outrageous stories that were created to instil fear and hatred, dividing a populace and creating a space where the old, the weak, the poor and the independent thinkers were targeted against the power of the Church and patriarchy.

It is my firm belief that the sexual imagery of the witch “riding” her broom is the result of the sexually repressed minds of the witch hunters themselves. It is only one of many sexual fantasies created by these men who were paid to bring people in for prosecution. This was their job, and they made money from it. You would have to be quite a horrible type of person to want to do this sort of job in the first place. Just saying.

In fact, the witch riding her broom comes from a long heritage of witches working with staffs, stangs, wands and distaffs. We can trace this work in Europe back to the völva (plural völur), a type of Norse shamanistic practitioner of magic and divination. Völva actually means “staff carrier”. Usually a woman, she always had a staff, sometimes wood, sometimes an ornamental iron distaff. We know this from the many burials found across Scandinavia which have these women buried with the tools of their trade.

I’ve even heard some folks say that the practice of the völva was seen as shameful in Viking society. They use the sexual fantasy imagery and overlay it against the profession of the völva, claiming that this is what she did with her staff, like a witch riding her broom covered in the flying ointment. First, let’s look at the “shameful” aspect.

For women, it was not considered shameful to practice magic, except from a Christian point of view. For men to practice the magic of the völva, known as seidr, it was seen in Viking times as “ergi”, often translated as shameful. For a man to do women’s work was seen as unmanly, though we do have to remember that the sources from which we get this information were written after the Viking period by the patriarchal Christian monks. We also see women warriors, buried with their weapons, and so the question of men’s work and women’s work is even more circumspect. We see in the myths of the gods and goddesses a couple of the gods doing womanly things: Odin learns the art of seidr from the goddess Freya (he’s not seen as unmanly), Thor dresses up as a woman to get into a giant’s hall (still not unmanly) and Loki turns himself into a mare to have sex with another horse (still not called out as unmanly and actually producing Odin’s steed, Sleipnir, in the process).

(Artwork from: https://www.deviantart.com/briannacherrygarcia/gallery)

Add on top of that the fact that all the burials found of the women who are considered to be völur are high status burials, and the question of shame seems absurd. The Osberg ship burial, perhaps one of the most famous Viking ship burials, had the body of a völva laid to rest with with a host of beautiful treasures (what was left of them, for the burial had been broken into a long time before, with many of the goods stolen). No person who was considered shameful would be given such a send off.

The question of drugs does come into play when looking at the ancestors of the more modern-day version of the broom riding witch. Many of the burials were found to have pouches of hallucinogenic herbs on the body, such as henbane or cannabis seeds. These seeds, when thrown onto hot coals would produce a smoke that, when inhaled, would most definitely get you “high”, but not in the way that the sexual fantasy of the witch riding a broomstick would by the witch hunters. The clue is in the staff itself, and what it symbolises.

The word seidr is thought to derive from spinning or weaving. The völur were those who could see the way that fate was woven or spun through their contact with the spirit world. Their distaffs were their link to that ability. For those graves wherein a wooden staff was found, the link lies more with the World Tree that one can use to travel to the nine worlds in Norse cosmology. Through the staff there is a sympathetic link created with the World Tree, with Yggdrasil, and it can be used to “ride” between the worlds.

And this is where the descendant of the völur appears today, in the form of hedge riding, an aspect of Hedgewitchcraft. Riding the staff/stang/broom/whatever you have to hand that resembles the world tree helps you to travel between the worlds in order to find the information that you require in your Craft. Most Hedgewitches today do not use hallucinogens, being able to perform the working through trance states that are induced by other means.

So, in conclusion, the equating of broom riding and sex seems more like a far-fetched fantasy than the actual reality when we dig a little deeper into the history and the ancestry of witchcraft. That it is continuing to be spread today only helps to demean and undermine the power of women in working magic, turning something extremely symbolic and important into a sexually repressed fantasy created by the patriarchy. When a witch is riding her broom, or using her staff, stang or wand in ritual, the lineage is far greater than most people can ever assume, and is far more powerful than any witch hunter could ever dream of.

For a great video on the staff of the völva, see Freya’s video below: